We’ve been considering together what it means to know and walk with a God who says: “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom, or the strong man boast of his strength, or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord (Jeremiah 9:23-24).
So with our last post we talked about the relationship between God’s lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness. The challenge, as the resulting conversation showed, is to see the way all three work together rather than against one another.
Seems like we’ve begun to see how lovingkindness and justice work together to respond in different ways to the needs of both offenders and victims. Justice does those on the wrong side of the law an unwanted favor by stopping, restraining, and redirecting them… while responding just as urgently to the cries and needs of those who have been hurt.
In that sense, lovingkindness gives justice a heart and mind that actively responds to the needs of others. Together they come together in the amazing story that comes to a predicted but unexpected climax in the weekend that begins with a day we now call “Good Friday”.
What I have for too long missed is that righteousness also finds a heartbeat and life in the same story. My inclination has been to think of righteousness as a state of moral rightness and compliance, and, at best, as “the gift of rightness” that is transferred to “our account” in the spiritual transaction of the cross.
But slowly it seems to be dawning on me that righteousness is not just compliance to a moral standard, or only the “legal state of relationship” that is ours in Christ. “Rightness” also, as shown by the story of the Bible, has a heartbeat. It too looks like the way Jesus acted in behalf of others. By the way he relates to others the Living Word shows us the kind of rightness that brings us to the heart of the God who wants us to know him.
The point is that righteousness is not simply a “state of rightness”. It is the relational way God acts for our good… to let us experience his lovingkindness and to enable us to show the same heart to one another.
Eerdman’s Bible Dictionary, though formal in language, gives us a summary that shows how “righteousness” breathes, speaks, and acts when it says, “Righteousness” is not simply an abstraction, but possesses a relational aspect set within the context of God’s covenant with his people…”
EBD continues, “God is, above all others, the righteous one (Isa. 24:16), the one who preserves the covenant relationship by delivering his people with righteous deeds (Judg. 5:11; RSV “triumphs” l Sam. 12:7; RSV “saving deeds” Mic. 6:5; RSV “saving acts”). God also upholds the cause of the oppressed (cf. Ps. 9:7–12 MT 8–13]; 103:6; Prov. 22:22–23), gives justice to the innocent (1 Kgs. 8:32; cf. Isa. 50:8–9), and hears the suit of those in need (Ps. 7:9–11 MT 10–12]; 35:23-24; Jer. 11:20; 12:1). He presses the case against rebellious Israel (cf. Isa. 3:13–15; Jer. 2:9; Hos. 4:1), and calls creation as his witness (Ps. 50:6; 98:7–9; cf. Mic. 6:1–2). Yet for the repentant God’s righteousness takes the form of deliverance (Isa. 45:8; 61:10; cf. 51:4–5). The righteous God calls on his people to make the righteous response of keeping his law (Deut. 6:25; cf. Gen. 6:9) and doing justice (Deut. 24:10–13; Job 29:14–17). To do this is to gain life (Ezek. 18:5–9; Hab. 2:4).”
With that Old Testament background, the same source goes on to say, “According to Paul, Christ is “our righteousness” (1 Cor. 1:30)…Christ’s cross is the “act of righteousness” that saves (Rom. 5:18)… Through the sacrifice of Christ believers “become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21).” Myers, A. C. (1987). The Eerdmans Bible dictionary (888). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans.